Secrets for starting a business
Aug 25, 2020
Season 1 | Episode 6

Secrets for starting a business

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Whatever your idea — two-legged chairs, tubes of squeezable pizza or a new form of bitcoin — you have to ask yourself a few important questions before you get started.

There are lots of great reasons to want to start a business: solving a problem, pursuing a passion, even making some money. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work, and even if you do everything right, it may not work out. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you failed — thinking through a business idea can build some really great skills! This week, we talk with a bunch of experts — kids and grown-ups — about turning an idea into a full-blown business. Plus, Jed bakes us some cookies! It’s our last episode of the season… and it’s gonna be yummy.

This four-panel comic first shows Patrice Banks looking at a computer screen reading "0 results for 'female mechanic' in your area" and the text "Identify a problem... that you're really passionate about solving." The second panel shows Patrice looking under the hood of her car and it reads "Get curious — and remember it might not happen overnight." The third panel shows Patrice talking with an older man and reads "Find a support system — someone who can help you out when you get stuck." Finally the third panel shows Patrice in mechanic's garb, watching other women mechanics work. It reads "Believe in yourself — and go out and do it!"

And now … tips for grown-ups listening to “Million Bazillion” with kids

Money Talks

Take a minute to recap the episode and review the key points. Here are some questions to get the kids going:

  1. What’s the business that Maya, our 8-year-old guest, started while she was quarantining with her family?
  2. Who did Maya interview on the episode, and what was the business that person started?
  3. Jed talked to Jessie Janowitz, author of “The Doughnut Fix,” about starting a business. She explained that you need to have what’s called a “business plan.” What does a business plan need to include?
  4. What great business idea did Jed ultimately decide to do?

(Click here for the answers)

Tip jar

Thinking about starting a business can be a useful lesson for kids, even if it’s all hypothetical. The process of identifying a need, focusing in on a problem they’re passionate about solving, then thinking through the elements of a business plan are important skills. 

Here’s some more great advice and a few resources from our guests and one other famous young entrepreneur:

Gimmie five

Thanks for listening to our first season of “Million Bazillion,” we couldn’t do it without you! And hey, we’re not going away — so if there’s something you still want to know, or a story you want to share with us, please get in touch. You can send us a message by clicking here.

Money talks answers

  1. A nail salon and car wash.
  2. Patrice Banks. Girls Auto Clinic, run by and for women.
  3. The idea for your business; your “hook” or why it’s a great idea; and what you need to get it going, from materials to capital (A.K.A.money).
  4. Making cookie dough.

(Click here to go back to the questions)

Make Me Smart season 1, episode 6 “Secrets for starting a business”  

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

[SFX – coins pouring into a blender]

Jed: (singing) Gonna get rich, gonna get paid…

Bridget: Hey watcha doin’? Making a smoothie? Whoa! Why are you putting coins in that blender?!

Jed: I’ve got a killer idea for a new business. I borrowed my mom’s fancy, super powerful blender. You’ve heard of Bitcoin, right?

Bridget: Oh no…

Jed: Well, I’m making my own! This fancy blender’s gonna chop ‘em up into tiny little bits, and then I’m gonna sell ‘em for a fortune.

Bridget: That’s not how Bitcoins work! And I think this could be really dange–[interrupted by Jed]

Jed: Here we go!

 [SFX – grinding, chunking metal cacophony, followed by shattered glass and coins zipping past]

Bridget: DUCK! 

[SFX – cacophony settles, blender motor sputters and dies]

Bridget: I think you need a better business idea.

Jed: Yeah, and fast. I gotta buy my mom a new blender.

Jed: Hey everyone, welcome back to Million Bazillion — where we help dollars make more sense! I’m Jed!

Bridget: And I’m Bridget! Today, we’re talking about something that a lot of you wrote us about…starting a business! And businesses can be anything from…like the small dry cleaner around the corner or a charity or a non-profit that helps with your homework…maybe it’s a school or a company that makes something we eat or wear.

Jed: Yes! Finally!! [semi-maniacal laugher]

Bridget: Ok, settle down. Why are you so excited about this?

Jed: Because starting a business is how you get rich! And POWERFUL. I’m going to buy Mount Everest and call it… Mount… Jedverest. I don’t know — I’ll come up with something better.

Bridget: Well, hang on. Starting a business isn’t necessarily going to make you rich. And there are better reasons to do it other than getting wealthy. Maybe it would help solve a big societal problem, like making it easier for people to recycle…or, you know, making Halloween costumes you can wear to match with your pet.

Jed: Ohhhhh! That explains those Chinchilla jumpsuits! I just thought you were- actually that gives me another great business idea — hot dogs that are shaped like cats or parrots. We’ll call them “Hot Pets”.

Bridget: I think we’re gonna need some help for this one. All right, coming up, expert advice on starting a business. Stay tuned.

Jed: What about “paw-sages”?

Bridget: (fading out) That just sounds like they’re made out of pets!

Narrator: And Now it’s Time For…Asking Random Kids Not So Random Questions. What’s a business you wished existed or that you could start yourself?

Kid 1: I wish there was a business that automatically closed the door for you if you forgot to.

Kid 2: I would like to start a company that specializes in drone delivery, so that I could make deals with bigger companies.

Kid 1: Like what if you forgot to close the door and you have a dog and then ran out.

Kid 3: Where you’d be able to train your cat and like you take it to this place. And then some people would help you train your cat to do some like tricks and like follow your directions.

Kid 4: The business that I wish existed was a Pokemon business which can turn humans into Pokemon trainers. 

Kid 5: I would create a business that sells robots that can do your laundry, mow your lawn, wash the car and other chores that I don’t want to do.

Kid 3: Yeah I think that’d be my business.

Narrator: That was…Ella in Los Angeles, Noah in Ann Arbor, Nzoi in Pasadena, Sydney in Wisconsin, and Wesley in Belmont Massachusetts. This has been asking kids not so random questions. 

Bridget: Okay Jed, so what’s your latest idea–oh my gosh, it smells SO GOOD in here, what is that?

Jed: Cookies! Baking helps me think! Just now, I’ve been thinking of starting a chair company where the chairs all have just 2 legs! Think of the money I’d save in manufacturing!

Bridget: Jed…uh-huh. Maybe keep thinking about it? And keep baking cookies…man, aren’t fresh baked cookies just the best? Like they’re a pain to make but the smell right out of the oven…MMMM!

Jed: I mean, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty sure I’m close to perfecting the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie recipe of all time!

Bridget: Wait, Jed! This should be your business!

Jed: Baking cookies? YES! I could make ONE GIANT cookie and sell it for…wait, how much is a blender again?

Bridget: Hold on Jed…I think I know someone who can help you get these delicious chocolate chip cookies out to the masses. Jessie Janowitz is a total genius when it comes to helping people coming up with a great plan for their business.

Jed: I’m in! Can I talk to Jessie right now? These cookies aren’t going to stay gooey warm forever…

Bridget: Yes! Let’s do it!

Jed: Hi Jessie, thanks for talking to me…I think I’ve got the GREATEST business idea you’ve EVER heard of!

Jessie: Okay (laughs)

Jed: I make the most delicious chocolate chip cookies and I want to start baking dozens and dozens of them and then selling them! What do you think?

Jessie: Do you have a passion for baking?

Jed: I mean, I will do it when it’s for chocolate chip cookies. I’ve made many.

Jessie: So I would say for you and for everybody out there listening, the more you love the business that you’re getting into, the more it’s something you’re super excited about, the more likely you are to work through the problems, and all businesses have problems that have to be solved. Tons of people can make their own chocolate chip cookies at home, right? Tons of people sell chocolate chip cookies, you can buy chocolate chip cookies in the store. Jed, what’s your hook? Why am I going to buy your perfect chocolate chip cookie?

Jed: Uh, because I’m nice?

Jessie: (Laughs) So, I think that the hook is where you’re combining something you feel passionate about with something that you perceive people in the world needing, or a problem that you can solve through your passion. So in this case, I’m just spit balling there, but what if not only do you sell the perfect chocolate chip cookie, but you sell the perfect chocolate chip cookie dough, so that people, so that people don’t have to go to the trouble of, you know, making the dough right then and there. They can just take it home and, you know, cut up off of the loaf that you’ve made and put those cookies in the oven and they have them hot right then and there.

Jed: Oh, and then I don’t even have to bake it, too.

Jessie: Right. So, that hook, that problem that you’ve identified, is how you’re going to distinguish your business from other people’s, by selling the dough. And as you pointed out, it helps you out because you don’t need an industrial sized kitchen just to make the dough.

 Jed: Okay. This is popping up all sorts of ideas in my like, I’ve got like a catchphrase like…need cookies? Wait dough more!

 Jessie: (Laughs) That’s a good one!

 Jed: Okay, so step one, we figured out an idea that really works, world’s best chocolate chip cookies. And step two, we figured out the hook which is why someone would buy MY chocolate chip cookies over someone elses…answer, because I’m selling the DOUGH and they can actually MAKE them at home. Genius. What’s next?

Jed: Bridget! That was AWESOME! I have a really great idea for my business and now I gotta go do some research…how many cups of butter is a stick again?

Bridget: That’s GREAT news, Jed! And now…something to think about.

Bridget: Okay Jed…So I have an idea for you, to inspire you as you get ready to launch your cookie dough business!

Jed: Okay, yes please because I heard my mom talking about wanting to make a smoothie, and uh, it’s only a matter of time…

Bridget: Don’t worry man, we’re gonna take care of this. So it turns out that a lot of our listeners are entrepreneurially-minded…like, they’re really good at coming up with business ideas! And then doing them!

Jed: OH, yes, I see where you’re going with this…I can STEAL THEIR SECRETS!

Bridget: Uh…well, actually, I thought maybe you could get inspiration from them. First, meet Maya…she’s 8 and she LOVES starting businesses…like a few months ago, she started a nail salon for the adults she was quarantining with:

 Maya: I made up funny names, like say for example, “nail-mo” where you could get your nails done and watch a movie. Or a toe-mo. Those each cost 50 cents. My car wash business, we just like, washed the cars down with rags and my uncle has this power thing that squirts out water. I love that you just get to inspire, like you make your brain pop out and I really like doing things for other people, not exactly for the money.

Bridget: So for Maya, starting these businesses to help other people is her THING. And she interviewed another real life problem solver… a woman named Patrice Banks. Patrice was an engineer who started an auto repair shop for women and their cars called The Girls Auto Clinic. Take a listen. 

Bridget: So Jed, what’d you take away from hearing from Maya and Patrice?

Jed: I really liked it! It’s awesome  that Maya starts businesses to help the people around her…and how Patrice solved a problem that was bothering her!  It’s giving me some great ideas for my cookie dough business.

Bridget: Well I love hearing that. And hey, here’s a cool idea that isn’t about making money…but it is about money we could MAKE…

Jed: What on earth are you talking about….

Bridget: Okay, it’s another answer to our question, if you could design your own currency, what would you put on it.

 Kai Ryssdal: I’m Kai Ryssdal, the host of Marketplace and Make Me Smart answering a question for Million Bazillion. And if I had to make my own currency, well, look, Bridget, and Jed, you’re gonna kill me and you’re gonna say this is a cop out, But I wouldn’t. Because here’s the deal. I actually believe inside a generation, which is to say, by the time the kids who are listening to this podcast have their own kids, there’s not going to be actual physical currency. It’s going to be all digital. It’s going to be not Bitcoin but something else. Something better. Something probably thought of by the government, right? Because that’s the way currencies have to go. The government says what they’re worth, and then we use them. But I don’t think there’s actually going to be paper money or coins. Could be wrong. 

Jed: [thinking to self] See, maybe my bitcoin idea wasn’t so bad after all…

Jed: Okay Bridget…So, I’ve got my brilliant idea…My cookie dough business that’ll help people make delicious cookies at home…

Bridget: yeah…

Jed: And I’ve got my business plan, right here.

 Bridget: Wow, that is very detailed.

Jed: So…would you be interested in investing in Jed’s Cookies?

Bridget: What does that mean exactly?

Jed: You lend me the money to buy all the ingredients I need for my business…and then I’ll give you a cut of the money I make… until I’ve paid you back!

Bridget: Mmm… I don’t know. It’s kind of a risk…

Jed: But investing in my business is investing in people’s happiness! ! Because they get to make their own fresh cookies, faster, in the comfort of their own home. And to sweeten things, I’ve got…

[SFX – LID BEING LIFTED OFF A PLATTER]

Jed: Some fresh cookies right here.

Bridget: *sniff* *sniff* Ok, yes! Gimme gimme! [MOUTH FULL] Plus, I get a tube of cookie dough once a week.

Jed: Deal! 

[Dollar Scholar Trumpets]

 Jed: And now it’s time for…Dollar Scholar!

Bridget: That time every week where we get some tips or advice from a kid who’s gotten a little smarter about money.

Jed: Today…We hear from four friends in middle school…they started a business to sell bracelets to raise money for causes like helping endangered animals. Here are their tips for those of you interested in starting your own business.

 Amelie: I would say do what you love for a cause you love in my case, I love animals and saving the planet. And I have tons of bracelets. So combining them was a fun and great way to spend my time. 

Ona: A tip that I would like to share is it’s easier and more fun to start a business with friends because you can bounce ideas off of each other.

Noa: I think the key is simply just a good idea.

Emma: My advice is to never give up. No matter how difficult the situation can be. With a strong foundation and hard work. You can accomplish anything.

Jed: That was  Amelie, Ona, Noa, and Emma, four friends who started their own business  called Wonders Awaken.

Bridget: And if you’ve got a cool tip we missed this season, send it to us at our website, marketplace dot org slash million.

Jed: Just a couple things before we head out today. Lessee, what kind of music should we do? How about some surf guitar? Aw, gnarly brah!

There are lots of great reasons to want to start a business. You can solve a problem, you can pursue a passion, and yes, you might make some money.

Doing it right, though, takes a lot of hard work. And you’ll need to develop new skills. And after all your work, it still might end up going nowhere. 

But even if it fails — or even if you never start it at all — it’s still worth it, because you’ll have exercised your brain solving problems and thinking about things from new angles. And that’s experience you can apply to a new business idea!

Like, how about this one? Squeetza — raw pizza that you squeeze out of a tube! Bridget! You wanna invest and get in on the ground floor?

Bridget: Hmm… I think one investment for now is enough… In the meantime we’ve had a ton of fun this season, answering questions about money. 

And what we really loved was hearing from you. With your answers to the questions we asked throughout the season…like would you rather eat OK pizza anytime you wanted or REALLY awesome pizza just once a year?

Riya: My answer is only eat pizza once a year but it’s always the most amazing pizza you’ve ever had. Because then you can eat it on your birthday. And birthdays are special.

That was Riya (ree-ya), she’s 8…

Jed: Or this one, from Marisella in New York who answered the question…if she could make her own currency, what what would she make it out of and who would she put on it:

Marisella: I would make it out of silicon because it is more durable than paper and it does not rip. And it is waterproof. 

The person I would put on it would be the civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because I feel like he is a person that worked very hard for other people to get treated the same.

Jed: And thanks as well for sending in all the great questions you still want us to answer:

Various kids:

How do I start a business as a kid without any startup costs?

What is Interest? 

What is Compound Interest? 

The people who are making clothes, how do they keep all the fabric and never stop having it? 

When you have your own business, can some of your profit go to things you want or do they have to go to the business? 

Why is Money So Important?

Jed: I know a lot more now than I did at the start…And I’ve still got more questions, just like you. Thanks for learning about money along with us on this season of Million Bazillion. Hope we made dollars make…a little more sense.

 Bridget: And that’s it for this episode of Million Bazillion!

Jed: We’re going to go on a little break now, but if you liked what you heard this season, you can do us a BIG FAVOR and tell your friends and family all about this podcast…and tell them to listen too!

Bridget: If you want to learn more about how to start your own business, or at least how to write your own business plan, check out our Tip Sheet. You can find it at our website, marketplace dot org slash million. Click on the page for THIS episode.

Jed: Special thanks to…Maya, Patrice Banks, founder of the Girls Auto Clinic outside of Philadelphia, and Jessie Janowitz, who is also the author of the novel, The Doughnut Fix.

Bridget: We also had help from Jack Stewart and Charlton Thorp. And thanks to all of you who sent us questions and answers throughout the season. Today we heard from Sabina, Elise, Will, Grace, and Carter.

Jed: Million Bazillion is brought to you by Marketplace in collaboration with Brains On! And American Public Media. Ben Tolliday, is our sound designer and composed additional music. Million Bazillion’s theme music was composed by Wonderly. Bridget Bodnar is our co-host and senior producer. Sanden Totten is our editor and this week, we also had help from Elyssa Dudley. Tony Wagner is our digital producer. Erica Phillips writes our tip sheets. Sitara Nieves is the Executive Director of On Demand. I’m your host, Jed Kim.

Bridget: And special thanks to the people who provided the startup funding to make this show possible in the first place. The Ranzetta Family Charitable Fund and Next Gen Personal Finance, supporting Marketplace’s work to make younger audiences smarter about the economy.

Jed: To all the grown-ups listening right now – we hope that you and the kids in your life are having some good conversations about money thanks to Million Bazillion. We created this podcast to help kids get an early start on learning about the economy – but we can’t continue without your support. Donate today at marketplace-dot-org-slash-givemillion, and thanks for chipping in to make our work possible.

Jed: See you next time.

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The team

Jed Kim Host
Bridget Bodnar Senior Producer
Sanden Totten Editor
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Donna Tam Executive Director of On-Demand
Chris Julin Sound designer
Jasmine Romero Editor
Bekah Wineman Media producer
Marissa Cabrera Producer
Tiffany Bui Intern

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